Specialization vs. Generalization

Once businesses make the decision to hire a marketing agency, they then have to choose which one. This sometimes means choosing between hiring one general marketing agency that offers multiple services or hiring several specialized agencies.

Generalized marketing agencies claim they can take care of all of your marketing needs, including social marketing, PPC campaigns, content marketing, and email marketing. Specialized agencies will often only focus on one of these fields; while you may need to hire multiple specialized agencies, their levels of expertise are often unmatched.

Plenty of small businesses initially choose to hire generalized marketing agencies due to the simplicity. In many cases, however, you’re better off choosing agencies with a particular specialization instead.

There are a number of different factors that you should take into account when choosing what type of marketing agency you want to hire. Let’s take a look at each, and how they can affect your business.

1. Convenience
A generalized marketing agency means you just need to find the one and that’s it, right? They may have social marketers, graphic designers, copywriters, PPC practitioners, and sales staff on hand. This can seem appealing, but it’s worth noting that to provide this convenience, all-in-one agencies sometimes have inexperienced employees working on your brand, especially in the demand generation departments where years of expertise are needed.

Specialized agencies have everyone they need staff for the particular services they offer. Abacus, for example, has a large in-house team with experts in creative, strategy, execution, optimization, data, reporting and more—all focused on applying their talents to your Facebook Ads campaigns.

While specialized agencies don’t offer all of your marketing needs in one place, they’re almost guaranteed to have extremely high-quality recommendations for great freelancers that they know and trust. In many cases, they will have hired these freelancers (or even other specialized agencies) themselves. You’ll have to hire different people and teams, but you may not have to go looking as far as you’d think. If you can find a good specialized agency that you trust, they’ll almost definitely be able to point you to other agencies and consultants to take care of your other needs.

2. Expertise
Generalized agencies know a little about everything. This can make it easy to coordinate an overall strategy; they’re able to effortlessly connect the dots between their strategy for your blog, the associated email campaigns and lead magnets, and adapting it to high performing social content, for example. Knowing a little bit about everything, however, comes at the cost of knowing everything about one specific area. In many cases, employees from these agencies (especially larger agencies) will be younger, fresh out of school, and lacking the kind of experience you need.

Specialized agencies, on the other hand, will have a solid knowledge of everything in the general marketing world works but are extremely talented experts in their field of specialty. This means that they’ll understand how their contribution fits into an overall marketing strategy, but be able to execute that contribution to perfection.

Employees in specialized agencies not only understand best practices, they may have helped create them, and they understand why they work to a T. In many cases, they’ve been handpicked by the agency for their prominence in the field and unique skill set. Everyone we’ve hired at Abacus, for example has been in the trenches and getting hands-on experience for years, learning from multiple clients in multiple industries and continually improving while adapting to cutting-edge strategies.

3. Cost
Before you actually see any numbers, it would be easy to think that hiring a generalized agency for all your needs would be more cost efficient than a big agency; wouldn’t they be able to offer you packages for multiple services? In many cases, these packages are marked up almost as high as the individual services, and you end up paying for services you may not really want or need at the time. Many generalized agencies also cost more in general, because their processes may not be as streamlined and they may have vague contracts that profits them—at your expense.

Hiring specialist agencies for specific services is an extremely cost effective way to pay for exactly what you need. Some businesses will only need Facebook Ads and email marketing services, for example, because they’re taking care of their content marketing on their own. It’s also worth noting that the superior results you’ll get from expert-crafted campaigns will be worth any extra cost that agency may have. If the specialized agency charges 10% more, after all, their results just need to yield 10% more ROI to make up for it.

4. Creativity
All good marketing agencies should be creative because all marketing materials rely on creativity to thrive. Generalized agencies are most likely to come up with strong ideas for campaign (which specialized agencies also do), but rely on traditional techniques that have been created and tested by someone else to distribute those ideas. They’ll wait for specialized agencies to refine a technique (like a method of targeting on Facebook Ads, for example) before actually attempting to use it.

If an agency is focused on a specific niche, like Abacus is, they’re going to come up with really, really interesting ways to improve results in that niche. They’ll be able to try more things through tests and experiments, and they’ll have more data to pull from and learn from. They live and breathe their specialty; they’re enthusiastic and dedicated, which is a powerful combination when added to their knowledge and experience.

Questions to Always Ask Before You Hire an Agency

Whether you choose a specialized or a generalized firm, there are a few questions to always ask before you hire an agency. These questions can help you evaluate what they’ll be capable of, how they work, and if that’s in line with what you need.

  • Do you outsource? How do you vet anyone you outsource to?
  • How will you measure the success of campaigns? Which metrics do you look at?
  • How can I verify the results and metrics you’re showing us?
  • What specific services do you offer in-firm?
  • What specialties and experience do you have?
  • What case studies can you show me?
  • What do you need from me to get started?

Any agency worth working with will not only be able to answer these questions, but will be happy to. Always look for agencies that can back up their strategies with data, evidence, and strong examples, and for those with transparent contracts that won’t cost you extra money.

You know your business, your budget, and your marketing objectives better than anyone, and you’ll be the best judge in the type of agency that will benefit you the most. We made this decision when creating Abacus and choose what type of agency we wanted to be. Ultimately, we knew that we wanted to focus on honing our years of expertise to become the best agency in the Facebook Ads niche. This expertise and dedication directly benefits our clients, which should be the first priority of agencies of all types.

Do you want to learn more about how working with Abacus can help you scale your business with Facebook Ads? Book a free consultation with us today!

Peter Reitano
Peter Reitano

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